The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 9, 2012

Our View: Adult basic education makes a difference

The Free Press

— Thumbs up: In an era where political leaders of every stripe talk of the importance of getting people into jobs, the Mankato area Adult Basic Education program can say it is doing just that.

The program provides education to adults to help them become self-sufficient in the workforce  by providing a variety of classes including English as Second Language, General Education Development (GED), some college prep and FastTRAC a program to train participants quickly in skills local employers need.

The small and nimble program housed under Mankato Public Schools Community Education and Recreation department has been meeting exploding demand for its services. Enrollment has increased 20 percent in the last two years, and 30 percent in the last four years.

Much of the growth in enrollment may be due to the economy. Workers are laid off and need to acquire new skills or improve the ones they have in order to land a new job.

The program serves not only the Mankato district but also school districts of Maple River, Lake Crystal, New Ulm, Sleepy Eye and Brown and Blue Earth County jails.

The program’s biggest challenges come from space needs, but it also has partnerships with area workforce centers that help with resources and space.

Program leaders report that 45 percent of participants move up a level each year, and the program has never missed state targets for progress.

It’s a very much needed program that probably gets little recognition for its “down in the trenches” work helping people get gainful employment.


Bachmann gets an opportunity to reflect

Thumbs up: To the extremely close call that Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann experienced in Tuesday’s election, and for the opportunity it provides for a personal adjustment.

Bachmann, who made a name for herself nationally by embracing the tea party movement and running for president, is also well known for her hyper-partisan statements — some of which have come back to embarrass both her and her party. But after she defeated Democratic newcomer Jim Graves by a razor-thin margin on Tuesday in the conservative 6th District, she hinted that the voters’ message was received.

Bachmann said she’ll focus on her job with a “laser-like” precision, meaning perhaps she’ll focus less on burnishing her national image and more on concentrating on her district’s needs. If she also works on limiting her provocative remarks, she may be able to grow back her shrinking base of support.


North Mankato wise to look closely at Marigold

Thumbs up: To the North Mankato City Council for doing its due diligence on the proposed Marigold apartment complex.

The proposed six-story, 108-unit upscale apartment project would sit off of Belgrade Avenue along Wheeler Avenue. Neighbors in the area are worried about the size of the building and others raise concerns about the city’s financial risk by being involved in subsidizing the project.

The city’s Planning Commission chose to make no recommendation to the City Council on whether a higher-than-allowed building should be approved. The city’s Port Authority approved subsidizing the project.

The council was wise to not take a hasty vote on the project and instead tabled it. They will seek more detailed information and mull over residents’ concerns before taking a vote — a smart move for such a major decision. 


Compromise part of both parties’ vocabulary

Thumbs up: It may be too soon to get too optimistic about the end to political gridlock in Washington, D.C., but early indications from President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner suggest a positive tone toward upcoming negotiations to prevent the dreaded “fiscal cliff.”

Two days after Obama won re-election, he said he would be inviting leaders in Congress to The White House next week to begin discussions on how to prevent the automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

While Obama said his re-election win meant most Americans agree that the balanced approach with more revenue from wealthy individuals is the way to help solve the deficit, he said he was open to compromise. Likewise, Boehner said while the Republican Party was not really going to be for increases in “tax rates” they were open to new revenue ideas.

But we want to encourage the negotiations and bipartisan compromise and we give both leaders credit for a willingness to take the problem seriously, soon and ultimately solve it.